North Carolina's Financial Center is Riding High

As the country braces for economic turmoil, North Carolina's financial center is riding high. Trains, cranes and megabanks transform the New South

Andy McMillan for TIME

Charlotte's nine Fortune 500 companies include two banking giants.

In 1791, George Washington called Charlotte, N.C., a "trifling place." In 1941 an author scoffed that the city had as much use for high-rises "as a hog has for a morning coat." By 1991, Charlotte was still a minor-league city without major-league sports, a cultural wasteland with a central business district that died every weekday after work. "No restaurants. No nightlife. Nothing," recalls seven-term Republican mayor Pat McCrory. "You could lie down in the street and never have to worry about getting run over." A local planner gained notoriety by proving it was impossible to find a Snickers bar downtown after...

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